Big weekend in Washington, D.C.! The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ragnar Kjartansson show opened this morning to the public, after a rollicking opening reception and dinner last night. That’s just steps away from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, which reopened a few weeks ago after three years of extensive renovations.
And then on U Street here in D.C., at the historic Lincoln Theatre, the 2016 Creative Time Summit, an annual conclave of art lovers involved in social justice that alights in a different city each year, is in session. In the same city as Ben’s Chili Bowl! Actually it’s right next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl! What a treat.
The major news today was a certain announcement made by the artist Tania Bruguera during Hans Ulrich Obrist’s keynote address, which used the history of Dada to “embrace the irrational as a productive political space.” This involved him talking about his own experience with Dada—he was born in Zurich, and connected that to seeing Joseph Beuys speak when he was 16. Then he moved on to talking about absurdity in the realm of politics, which seems like a pretty apt observation these days, and recalled the time in 1992 that poet and novelist Eileen Myles launched a write-in campaign for president from her East Village apartment, running on a platform based on the fact that she was “openly female.” Obrist said Myles created a video about it for his “Do It” exhibitions, and the video was screened here in D.C.—Myles is walking around her apartment trying to figure out which headshot she should use. “This is too Mapplethorpe,” she says of one picture of her. “Too Patti Smith,” she says of another. She finally settles on a picture of herself and a dog.
Then Myles Skyped in, still in the same apartment in the East Village, and addressed the crowd, explaining that she sort of ran for president as a joke, but then it kind of exploded. So she came up with a platform. For one, she wouldn’t live in the White House, not with homelessness as it was—and is—in this country.
That was a nice chat, and then Obrist said he had a surprise. He played a video that showed Bruguera, who said, “Today I put myself forward as a candidate for the 2018 election.”
That would be the election for president of Cuba—Raúl Castro said he would step down in 2018. She clarified in a telephone interview with The New York Times that, yes, her announcement is real, but it is also a performance. (She termed it “artivism.”)
So that’s the big news out of my somewhat sleepy hometown city today, though there’s a lot of fun stuff happening in Lincoln Theatre—which is packed, by the way. People in D.C. really like art-meets-social-justice symposia.
Earlier today, the actor Waris Ahluwalia discussed getting detained before a flight back to New York from Mexico, chatting, in a nice deadpan tone, about the experience with Creative Time’s chief curator, Nato Thompson. Lunch was provided by something called the Great Tortilla Conspiracy—color me intrigued, sure, but anyone who doesn’t get half smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl when you’re right here is out of their mind. Step Afrika gave one of the more awesome step performances I’ve ever seen, and then Ian MacKaye—lead singer of Minor Threat and Fugazi, founder of Dischord Records, and one of the all-time great Washingtonians—gave the keynote speech for a section called Do It Yourself, a reference to the DIY ethos that fueled much of the D.C. hardcore scene, for which MacKaye was a lodestar.
(This, despite the fact that the punk legend isn’t too fond of the term: “I find DIY a little…—I mean, I do things myself, but that seems a little like a hack term,” he told the crowd at one point.)
“They told me to talk about the thing you do,” MacKaye said, sauntering around the stage in a hoodie. “I am a musician. I grew up in Washington. I’ve lived here all my life.”
He went on to discuss how he got into skateboarding as a teenager, how he took a greyhound bus to Los Angeles with Henry Rollins, how he started the Teen Idles, and how he always held his ground, against all advice, and stayed in Washington, D.C., even when everyone else lost faith in his city.
The Creative Time Summit continues through Sunday.